Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Socioeconomic Explanations to Issues Affecting Adoptive Parents and their Adopted Children

Differences between family structures may be a function of selection on socio-demographic characteristics such as parental income and education, for example, finds that parents’ socioeconomic resources can account for variation in discipline practices among biological and non-biological family structures. A longstanding tradition of sociological work links parents’ involvement with their children to higher levels of education and
income. Scholars also identify older parental age as a resource that facilitates investments in children. Parents with these additional resources spend more for their children’s education, involve children in extracurricular activities, take more time for school involvement, and dedicate more time to activities with their children. Because these characteristics also vary with family structure, they may explain what appear to be the effects of family type.

Adoptive couples are heavily selected on their ability to invest time and money in the adoption process, which makes adoption a largely middle and upper class phenomenon. Adoptive parents typically have higher levels of education and income and are older than the general population. Therefore, if family structure effects operate through socio-demographic characteristics, we would expect two-adoptive-parent families to invest more in their children than all other family types; however, the introduction of controls for parental income, education, and maternal age will negate or even reverse this advantage.

In what follows, we present analyses that can directly address the theories. We assess the generalizability of explanations built from work on step- and single-parent families by holding constant the key explanatory feature—the lack of normative, biological ties—but varying the family context in which it occurs. Adoptive families in which both biological parents are absent are instructive in determining if alternative family structure (in the case of family structure explanations) or genetic non-relatedness (in the case of kin selection theory)inevitably results in parents’ reduced allocation of resources. Alternatives to these two explanations—the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA), compensation theory, and socioeconomic differences between adoptive and non-adoptive families—also will be explored. Our goal is not to determine which single theory accounts for our findings. Indeed, some of these theories are not mutually exclusive. Instead, we seek to establish which theories’ predictions are most (and least) consistent with these analyses.

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